HARTFORD, CT — He knows how to get the attention of jurors, but will the former federal prosecutor who put former Gov. John G. Rowland in jail a second time be able to convince Democrats to support his gubernatorial bid?
Chris Mattei, a 38 year-old Hartford attorney, who is now in private practice with Koskoff, Koskoff, & Beider, believes he’s the right Democrat for the job. He’s never held elected office and is describing himself as an outsider to the political process.
Mattei is the second Democratic gubernatorial candidate to announce he’s interested in the seat following Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s decision not to seek a third term. Jonathan Harris, the former Consumer Protection commissioner and West Hartford mayor, spent part of his day Tuesday calling reporters to announce he would be filing an exploratory committee today.
The announcement was much more casual and low-key than the email and maiden campaign video Mattei emailed to his supporters Wednesday morning.
In his maiden video, Mattei, who is not well-known to political insiders, seeks to strike a populist message.
“We’ve arrived at a troubled time. It seems as the values that I grew up with and that so many of us share are being put to the test everyday,” Mattei says in the video that is overlaid with soft piano music. “Values of fairness and decency. Tolerance and the rule of law.”
Mattei, who formed a committee and filed his paperwork Wednesday, is fashioning himself after former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. In 2005, Patrick was at first seen as a dark horse candidate, facing veteran politicians, but he was able to win a three-way primary with 49 percent of the vote. He went on to win the general with 55 percent of the vote.
Like Patrick, Mattei is an attorney, but one who is much younger.
Mattei’s message, which he tried out in February during a visit to the Windsor Democratic Town Committee, is about making government accessible to voters. He also wants to build back up the Democratic base by returning to the party’s core values, which continue to be tested by a series of budget deficits and the “new normal” of the economy.
“If we are finally going to address our challenges we must embrace a new kind of politics,” Mattei said in his Wednesday campaign video. “A politics of engagement and openness. A politics that rejects the backroom deals and influence peddling which only hold us back.”
Mattei, who grew up in Windsor, described his first run for public office as a “once-in-a-generation campaign.”
Mattei is unlikely to be the last Democratic candidate to get into the race.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo is said to be considering a bid for the Democratic nomination. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew was the first to open an exploratory committee in January.
Harris said he would get out of the race if Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman decides to run.